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Night Walk helps battle leukemia

Posted: October 16, 2008 9:10 p.m.
Updated: December 18, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Bruce Fortine and Gloria Mercado are co-chairpersons of the Light the Night Walk to be held Sunday at Bridgeport Park in Valencia.

 
If you drive by Bridgeport Park on Sunday after sunset don’t be surprised to see hundreds of illuminated balloons lighting up the night.

The fourth annual Light the Night Walk to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society will begin the family-friendly festival at 5 p.m. followed by the walk beginning at 7 p.m.

The Light The Night Walk is a leisurely walk to raise awareness about blood cancers and honor people battling leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma.

Opportunity

“Light The Night is an evening walk to celebrate and commemorate the lives of people touched by cancer,” Gloria Mercado, co-chair of the Santa Clarita Light the Night Walk, said. “We’ve made a commitment to build a team for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society —‘La Luz.’  We hope everyone will join us and help find a cure. This is an opportunity for us to do something good for Santa Clarita. It is an opportunity for us to help fight cancer.”

Mercado and husband Bruce Fortine volunteered to head up the Santa Clarita Walk because each has had family members who have battled cancer.

Light the Night walkers carry illuminated balloons — white balloons for survivors, red balloons for supporters and gold balloons representing the lives of loved ones lost to leukemia, lymphoma or other blood cancers.

The Walk culminates in a community celebration with music, refreshments and entertainment, where friends, family members, neighbors, co-workers, and others come together to demonstrate their support for cancer patients.

CNN Hero
On hand at the Santa Clarita Walk will be “CNN Hero” Pat Pedraja who will speak at the Walk. Pedraja and his “Driving For Donors RV” will make a special guest appearance and share his story with participants. In November of 2006, eight months after being diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, Pedraja was scared after watching a TV program about a woman with

leukemia who died because a suitable bone marrow donor couldn’t be found.

The 11-year-old had an idea; “Our plan is on May 15, 2007, I will begin driving donors. My family and I are going to drive across the country in a special Donormobile. We will host bone marrow donor drives and add potential donors to the National Marrow Donor Program Registry.”

Dozens of cities and states, thousands of miles driven, many generous donations and sponsorships later, appearances on Access Hollywood, NBC’s Today Show, CNN, a trip to Australia and back, Pedraja has added more than 10,000 new registered donors to the National Marrow Donor Program.  For more information about Driving For Donors visit www.DrivingForDonors.com.

In 2007 Walk participants raised more than $185,000 in donations in the SCV. The money helped to fund research to find cures and better therapies and to provide support services to blood cancer patients and their families.

There are family support groups, patient education workshops featuring health experts and First Connection, a peer-to-peer support program that matches newly diagnosed patients with trained volunteer survivors.

A back-to-school program helps children treated for cancer transition back to school.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society also provides financial assistance to patients with significant financial need and an insurance co-pay assistance program.

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